Bart Niswonger’s latest exhibit, “Furniture: Carved and Cast,” featuring modern furniture pieces by this contemporary artist, was on display March 30 to April 28 at Gallery Naga in Boston.
Niswonger started making furniture eight years ago, first in collaboration with furniture maker Carl Schlerman and then on his own. After setting up his own shop, Niswonger got the idea of integrating urethane with the wood to create furniture.
Using a carved ash mold from which he casts urethane, Niswonger builds furniture mixing urethane panels and wooden panels to form the structure. Each urethane surface takes on the wood grain from which it was cast, producing rivers and swirls of movement. His forms, which include cabinets, small tables, console tables and coffee tables, all employ different ways of using the urethane.
“The more tension I can introduce, the harder it is to balance the components, but the more energy the piece has,” Niswonger said in a statement. “For example, as a landscape painting is a mediated view of the landscape manipulated according to the artist’s eye, my furniture is a mediated form of wood and thereby nature. And like the landscape in that painting, the wood is still recognizable as wood, however foreign it may feel. I take a natural medium, wood, and force an unnatural structure on it by making rigid three-dimensional geometric forms.”
“Furnishing Louisiana: 1735-1835,” an exhibition exploring early Louisiana furniture and woodworking is on view through June 17 at The Historic New Orleans Collection gallery in New Orleans.
It traces the emergence of Creole America’s distinctive craftsmanship with more than 50 historically significant pieces of early Louisiana furniture showcasing the blending of Caribbean, Canadian, Anglo and European influences.
It includes pieces gathered from nearly two dozen collections.
“These items are testament to the artistic impulse that enlivens Louisiana’s history,” co-curator Sarah Dorman said in a statement. “Floods, fires and centuries of unrelenting heat and humidity have taken their toll on our region’s early material culture. The fact that this furniture has survived is inspirational and speaks volumes to the craftsmen’s knowledge and understanding of their resources.”
Gallery Naga, 67 Newbury St., Boston MA 02116. Tel: 617-267-9060. www.gallerynaga.com
The Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70130. Tel: 504-523-4662. www.hnoc.org
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue.